For the first time in a while, fans of the Los Angeles Lakers can find some joy in this season after LeBron James decided to make some more history in his already storied career.
He did so on Saturday, carrying the team to their first win since Feb. 16 through his monster 56-point performance against the Golden State Warriors. LeBron became only the 4th player in NBA history to have 50+ points in a game after turning 37-years-old, joining Jamal Crawford, Michael Jordan, and, of course, Kobe Bryant, who did this feat with 60 in the final game of his career.
It was an awe-inspiring performance that finally put some wind in the Lakers’ sails, hopefully getting their ship out of “the fog” that LeBron has mentioned in the past. However, this is only LeBron’s 13th career 50+ point game, and only the second one he’s had while wearing the purple-and-gold.
Suffice to say, these performances don’t happen often. It’s surely not sustainable, but it was needed on Saturday, as the 56 points helped the Lakers come back from being down most of the game to win 124-116.
With wins still desperately needed to keep the team afloat in the play-in tournament with fleeting chances of catching the Clippers at the 8th seed, what else can the Lakers take from that win on Saturday to help them moving forward?
That’s the main question we’re wondering heading into their next game, a Monday road battle against the San Antonio Spurs.
What can the Lakers carry over to this game?
I mean, I’ll take another LeBron 50-piece... but I don’t know how many of those The King has in the tank, or how many more times he’s going to use them in the regular season. A Ram won’t be sitting courtside every game, after all.
Gotta add 1️⃣0️⃣ to the court-side mood board. pic.twitter.com/VsCi0jImAs— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) March 6, 2022
But still, there were some other positives to take from the game that we weren’t necessarily seeing in the preceding four losses. For one, the Lakers actually tried for nearly the entire contest. It resulted in the team being neck-and-neck with the 2nd-seeded (albeit recently struggling) Warriors in effort-related statistical categories like second-chance points, offensive rebounds, steals, and blocks.
Austin Reaves and Malik Monk specifically helped in this regard, as they got it done on both ends of the floor against the Warriors with combined stats of 22 points (7/16 on 3-pointers), seven assists, six steals, and three blocks.
The two raise the floor of this team’s effort and energy levels whenever they’re out on the floor, something that the starting lineup — which in the past has featured old and slow dinosaurs like DeAndre Jordan and Trevor Ariza — has desperately needed.
Russell Westbrook was also able to keep himself from holding LeBron and the Lakers back with a detrimental game, having an efficient night from the field by making nine of his 17 field goals to end with 20 points.
Sadly, as much as we have come to expect those types of performances from Reaves and Monk, we’d be foolish to expect Westbrook to have those types of nights in all of the 19 remaining games of the season. He shot 52.9% on Saturday, a field-goal percentage he’s had on 17+ FGAs in only five other games this season.
In addition, there were still some questionable lineup decisions from head coach Frank Vogel during the game. Of course, this coincided with Avery Bradley’s first game since Feb. 12, as Vogel finally got his favorite player of all-time back just to put him alongside Westbrook and the recently signed DJ Augustin in what has to be one of the smallest 1-2-3 trios that has been on the floor in an NBA game this season.
So, without another all-time performance from LeBron, will the Lakers be able to beat the 24-40, 12-seeded Spurs on Monday? Will they be able to beat themselves? They definitely can if they bring that same type of buzzer-to-buzzer energy they had against the Warriors, however, who knows if that energy came from feeding off LeBron and/or the crowd in The Crypt. They’ve struggled without the latter in the past few months, as they haven’t won a game outside of their home arena since their Jan. 25 win in Brooklyn against the Nets.
I, personally have my doubts of that energy carrying over to the road, and it appears Las Vegas is right in step with my pessimism, as the Spurs are favored with a -2 line over the Lakers at the time of this preview.
But hopefully I’m wrong, and the Lakers realize that only 3.5 games separate them from being taken out of the play-in tournament. If they have that urgency, they should be able to bring those small-but-important positives from Saturday’s game and take them into San Antonio to ruin Gregg Popovich’s evening.
Notes and Updates:
- Nothing extremely notable from the Lakers’ injury report for this game. Anthony Davis and Kendrick Nunn will still be out. Avery Bradley has cleared the injury report while Talen Horton-Tucker should be good to go with a probable designation. He was a late scratch on Thursday against the Clippers with a left ankle sprain.
Spurs injury report for Monday vs Lakers:— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 6, 2022
Cacok, Woodard II, Stewart Jr - Austin
Murray - left calf contusion
Vassell - left groin tightness
Bates-Diop - lower back soreness
- The Spurs’ injury report above is far more notable, as Devin Vassell and Dejounte Murray will be questionable. The two haven’t missed any games recently, with these injuries only just popping up. Additionally notable is that Lonnie Walker IV was on the injury report their previous game, and played but struggled.
- Also, we won’t get to see our old friend Devontae Cacok, who the Spurs recently signed to a standard NBA deal after being on a two-way deal.
- Around the league, LeBron wasn’t the only one dropping 50+ this weekend as future Laker, current Celtic Jayson Tatum scored 54 points on Sunday to carry Boston over Brooklyn and Kevin Durant’s 37 points. Sadly, the Celtics have been going in the opposite direction of the Lakers over the past couple of months, as they’re now 39-27 and the current 5th-seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Lakers and Spurs have an early tip-off, coming at 5:30 p.m. PT, with the game being televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet.
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